Emma Olina Thorin was the 7th child of Joseph Arvid Thorin and his wife Mathilda Dahl. She was born on Monday, the 3rd of May 1909, in Hills, Minnesota when the family was already well established as prominent farmers in the region. Though raised in the care of six older siblings, the oldest being 13 at her birth, Emma would go on to have three younger siblings for herself to look after, one coming every two years until Emma was 6 years old.

Emma giving a bath to her new niece, Dorothy.
Emma giving a bath to her new niece, Dorothy, c. 1929.

In her young adult years after graduating from high school, and only a couple years after the untimely death of her next-older sibling, Louisa, Emma left her hometown of Hills to attend an the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis in the agrarian department. She attended through all four years and graduated in 1930. She was remembered amongst her peers for being lighthearted and her yearbook from that school has this to say about her:

She would better any sort of place.

Emma sitting with other members of the “Gopher Literary Club,” c. 1930.
A college photo of Emma, perhaps as a Freshman, c. 1926, perhaps age 18.

And a doting young man, Frederick German, of Red Wing, Minnesota, even had this to say:


Lucky will be the
man that gets you, for
you are a pal true blue.
Be sure and ask me to the wedding.
May health, wealth, and success be yours.
Loads of love,

Emma did eventually marry, though her window for motherhood may have passed by the time she wed. On the 9th of December 1945, and at the age of 36, Emma married Harold Theodore Qualley, a man from her hometown and a descendant of Norwegians from the area of Valders.

They lived long, happy lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, retiring in their 70’s to their hometown of Hills, Minnesota, Harold eventually passing away in February of 1991, at the age of 82; Emma, in February of 1995 at the age of 85.

Emma and Harold’s wedding photo, 1945, age 36.